Brainy Quote of the Day

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Hidden History 2 February 2017...

Image Source: US Chamber Foundation, link below
Topics: African Americans, Diaspora, Diversity in Science, STEM, Women in Science

The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields are boom town for jobs in today and tomorrow’s economy. According to Change the Equation, from 2014 to 2024, jobs in computing are slated to increase 19%, in advanced manufacturing 16%, and in engineering 12%. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2012-2022, there is going to be a 37% increase in information security analysts (no surprise there!), a 27% increase in operations research analysts, a 27% increase in statisticians, and a 27% increase in biomedical engineers. This is doubly impressive, because the median salary in 2013 for all of these jobs was over $79,000 per year. *

Confession of a STEM survivor

Summarizing previous posts on this subject:

Women and minorities are not only underrepresented in the sciences, they are openly discouraged from pursuing STEM careers at the university level and at early life stages. I was personally insulted by my middle school science teacher - "No, you big dummy!" - after asking a question about calculating the coefficient of linear expansion on a metal wire. I had stifled the immediate urgent need at that moment to deck him, confident of the outcome with the authorities if I had. My parents were not amused, and scheduled a visit with the principal. That was followed by a sweaty, self-preserving "apology" from the science teacher. I passed his class with a descent grade, and moved on from the twerp. The fact both groups are so low means discouragement is remarkably efficient to maintain the status quo of the "usual suspects" in the sciences, and a concentration of wealth and opportunities along gender and cultural lines. Suffice to say, to resist the "haters": you have to want it!

Albert Einstein was so fond of answering the fan mail of children interested in science, author Alice Calaprice wrote a book on it. In an exchange with a young science fan from South Africa named Tiffany:

September 19, 1946: "I forgot to tell you, in my last letter, that I was a girl. I mean I am a girl. I have always regretted this a great deal, but by now I have become more or less resigned to the fact. Anyway, I hate dresses and dances and all the kind of rot girls usually like. I much prefer horses and riding. Long ago, before I wanted to become a scientist, I wanted to b e a jockey and ride horses in races. But that was ages ago, now. I hope you will not think any the less of me for being a girl!"

To which, Einstein's reply was classic, and classy (circa October 1946):

"I do not mind that you are a girl, but the main thing is that you yourself do not mind. There is no reason for it."

The face above is cherub and innocent. The discouragement from "powers-that-be" will be formidable, but not insurmountable. I tutor and volunteer as much as time allows outside of my work hours to help, encourage and most importantly: be SEEN.

I am a member of Kappa Alpha Phi Fraternity, Inc. a part of a list of African American Sororities and Fraternities collectively known as The Divine Nine. Part of our mandate within our respective organizations and communities is just what I've described as well as fundraising for scholarships to help such students as the one pictured above.

You don't have to be a member of any Greek Letter organization, as some cannot due to not attending or finishing a four-year college. My father's motivation on my first day of college was a simple statement: "Before I die, I want you to be able to take care of yourself." My father formally had a sixth-grade education. After serving in the US Navy during World War II, he took and passed a college entrance exam, but chose not to attend. My mother had an Associates in Practical Nursing. Her encouragement was always: "You can do ANYTHING you want to do, if you put your MIND to it and believe you can do it!" Mildred and Robert are both deceased. Their son (me) completed a degree in Engineering Physics at North Carolina A&T State University; a Graduate Certificate in Microelectronics and Photonics at Stevens Institute of Technology and has applied to the School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering. Their grandsons attended college (my oldest in Real Estate); my youngest will receive his degree in Civil Engineering May 2017. Sometimes, all you need to be is a teacher, friend, sister, brother, cousin, aunt, uncle or parent with an encouraging word or two.

What's important in the long run is not being hidden, but encouraging and available. The return can literally be generational.

* US Chamber Foundation: African American Students and the STEM Challenge
Michael McShane

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